New iPhones set to increase pace of telcos' 5G service roll-out

Pre-orders start tomorrow for two of Apple's first 5G smartphone models

Apple chief executive Tim Cook with one of the brand's new 5G smartphones, the iPhone 12 Pro.
Apple chief executive Tim Cook with one of the brand's new 5G smartphones, the iPhone 12 Pro.PHOTO: REUTERS

Apple fans in Singapore can start to pre-order the new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro tomorrow, following the global launch of the brand's first 5G smartphones yesterday.

Two other new 5G models, the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max, were also announced yesterday but pre-orders for them will open here only from Nov 6.

At a virtual launch event yesterday, Apple chief executive Tim Cook said: "Today is the beginning of a new era for iPhone. We are bringing 5G to iPhone."

The 6.1-inch iPhone 12 is priced from $1,299, while the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Pro starts from $1,649. Both will be available from Oct 23.

The 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini starts from $1,149, while the 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max will retail from $1,799. Both models will be sold from Nov 13.

What 5G technology promises are surfing speeds 20 times faster than what 4G networks offer, and the ability to connect 1,000 times as many devices.

With Apple joining rivals Samsung and Huawei on the 5G march, analysts are hopeful that telecommunications companies will quicken the pace of their 5G roll-outs.

Mr Thomas Husson, principal analyst and vice-president of research firm Forrester, said: "Apple will do more for 5G than 5G will do for the new iPhones."

He said that 5G is still a relatively immature technology globally and has few new compelling consumer uses, one of which could be cloud gaming on the go.

In Singapore, local telcos Singtel, StarHub and M1 are providing limited 5G services on trial. StarHub was the first to do so in August, delivering 5G services over its existing 3G radio-frequency band.

Newcomer TPG Telecom is looking to launch 5G services. But it is still waiting for the regulator, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), to approve its plans to use its 4G radio-frequency bands, supported by the new iPhone 12, to provide 5G services.

"We hope that the IMDA can do so before the sale of the iPhone 12 so that we can run market trials like the rest of the operators in Singapore and offer more choices to consumers," said Mr Benjamin Tan, chief technology officer at TPG.

While all the iPhone 12 models support most of the frequency bands used by telcos to provide 5G services, the phones do not have the hardware components to work on the faster millimetre wave spectrum that will be widely used in Singapore for 5G services.

This did not dissuade cyber-security expert Shane Chiang, 48, from planning to upgrade to the new phone.

"Many applications need faster download speeds. It helps to have a top-of-the-line phone and a faster network," he said.

The mobile phone sector, like many others, was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns in many markets. Consumers put off non-essential purchases, fearing a recession.

Canalys senior analyst Ben Stanton said that 5G is a bright spark amid efforts in various markets to restart their economies, following the lockdowns.

"Global smartphone shipments are rebounding rapidly in many markets ahead of the economic and retail consumption recovery," he said.

Market research firm IDC has projected that 481 million 5G smartphones will ship next year, double the 237 million expected this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2020, with the headline 'New iPhones set to increase pace of telcos' 5G service roll-out'. Print Edition | Subscribe